JEFF BECK TRIBUTE – ROYAL ALBERT HALL 2023
So… I’ve had a little time to process the experience so here are my thoughts.
The Jeff Beck tribute shows on May 22nd and 23rd at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Let me start by comparing the expectation with what actually took place.
I guess the expectation was that it was going to be a big star-studded glittery gala, similar to award shows: with a professional host who would present the artists/guests, a fast pace, lots of glam and glitz, limos, and red carpets. That sort of thing.
Considering the big, legendary names that were on the bill, it wasn’t too far-fetched to assume that.
Well, that’s not what it was.
And perhaps the absence of MTV/Hollywood-ism, was what made this such a heartfelt, true, and genuine, tasteful evening of remembering a friend, a colleague, an inspiration, icon, legend, and extraordinary musician and songwriter.
Earlier in the afternoon on the first day outside of the Royal Albert Hall, I saw a lady walking by, wearing a t-shirt that said “Clapton is God“. Yes, that famous piece of graffiti from back in the day. Clapton is who many consider one of the best guitar players of our time. Yet there he was – just being a humble, almost anonymous member of the band that was backing other guests that were called out on stage.
If I hadn’t known that he was THE Eric Clapton, I would have thought that he was a session player, cause he had no rockstar attitude whatsoever, quite the contrary.
There was no introduction of him or the others in the band. Suddenly the lights went out and two minutes later on again – and there they just were. Nobody was shouting out “Ladies and gentlemen! Please welcome….! [insert celebrity musician name here]”.
None of that. Just low-key, even low-light attitude, because the focus here was 100% Jeff Beck.
People weren’t here to do PR for themselves, which is often the case at tribute shows, they were here to pay their respects in the best way a musician can to another musician. I loved the respectful approach.
I also loved the diversity of artists. Most of them I didn’t know because they are from different genres than I’m familiar with so in that respect I would have wished for more proper introductions because I had to Google for information on who many of these people were.
I found new artists that I now want to explore and get music by. Singers, guitarists, bassists, drummers… I’m still finding out who they all were, but their skills blew me away.
That’s the beauty of this – even if I know absolutely nothing about a musician that I haven’t heard before, their musical wizardry will infatuate me, draw me in, bewitch me, and spellbound me.
One guy walked out on stage and struck the first note on his guitar. ONE note, ONE string… not even a set of notes yet, but the tone and the way he made that guitar sound, made me just sit there and stare eagerly anticipating his next move. That is magic.
That was Gary Clark Jr.
Same thing with this woman who walked in on stage in a spectacular Jessica Rabbit red dress and started singing. GodDAMN, what a cool voice and strong performance. That was Imelda May.
Joss Stone? Don’t even get me started, she is MAGIC! The qualities of Janis Joplin, who would absolutely infatuate any listener and draw them into her emotional world, are very much a part of Joss, who is an absolute vocal goddess.
Another musician who got my attention was Susan Tedeschi. Lovely blues voice and guitarist.
Unbelievable rhythm section drummer Anika Nilles and bassist Rhonda Smith were in a league of their own. Dayyyymmmm! When they took off jamming, only the stratosphere was the limit. Holy crap.
The other keywords of the evening were respect and humbleness. Metallica’s Kirk Hammett was there, but if you hadn’t known about it, you probably would have missed it. It was as if he deliberately made his presence known as little as possible. He would quickly rush across the stage to take his spot in a dark/shady part of the stage if he could find one, where he would stare at his shoes and hide his face behind a hair curtain. It was as if he was signaling “never mind me, I’m not even here“.
Here you have people from the biggest, greatest bands in rock history, and NONE of them was acting like it.
No rock star attitudes anywhere. If anything, everyone stepped back, let the music talk, let Jeff – who was the reason we were all there – would be the main focus, and most of all, everyone had love and respect for each other – across musical styles, gender, age, nationalities, levels of success, whatever – they were all like a family and made all of us who were present that evening, feel like part of the brother- and sisterhood.
No flashy lasers or super-super productions. Just music and love.
To me, that was more than I could have hoped for and it was truly like a spiritual enlightening in a way. I’ve never seen Rod Stewart be so down to earth either, he was born to be a showman, much like his “brother” Ronnie Wood.
And Johnny Depp? I’m sure that he feels love and respect for music, Jeff, and everyone who was on stage those two nights, but honestly, he felt very out of place. It works in Hollywood Vampires, but he’s simply nowhere near the level of 99% of everyone on stage those two nights. Nevertheless, people seemed to enjoy his presence so heck, why not.
So much love in that building two evenings in a row, and so much mutual respect, something you easily forget in today’s competitive and harsh music business environment. This was a friendly reminder that there is another, better way to do things.
Thank you for this lovely tribute. I felt it. Really felt it.